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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wausaukee Faces Problems With False WWTP Testing Reports

Issue Date: November 22, 2017

Just prior to the start of the Wausaukee Village Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15 there was a disturbance involving Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Lonnie Bamberg that led the village board to discharge him immediately as a village employee rather than waiting for December 31, as they had decided at a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Village President Hilbert Radtke gave instructions that Bamberg would not be allowed on Wastewater Treatment Plant property unless accompanied by a village official. He said after the meeting that Bamberg had turned in his keys and his village-owned cell phone before leaving the village hall Wednesday evening.

That action was made official at a special emergency meeting of the board at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, with Radtke and trustees Mack McKim, Ray Gordon and Randy Schmidt present, Trustee Pat Tracy absent, and Trustees Joleen Christ and Kyle Stumbris absent and excused. After a 20-minute closed session returned to open session, after which they approved a motion to terminate the employment of Lonnie Bamberg effective immediately, November 16, 2017 at 9:22 a.m., "considering evidence of fraudulent charges and advice from the Village Attorney." The motion carried with no dissent. They also approved a motion to name Jeff Mayou as the Operator in Charge of the Wastewater Treatment Plant effective immediately, November 16, 2017 at 9:22 a.m., and that motion also carried without dissent. "The village is now advertising for a new licensed wastewater treatment operator and in the meantime Bamberg's regular duties are being carried out by Tylor Stumbris, who had been the part time wastewater treatment plant assistant. Stumbris is working under the direction of Mayou, who has been assisting as licensed operator in charge, a position required by DNR rules . Mayou is also wastewater treatment plant operator for the Peshtigo Water and Sewer Utility. He had assisted Wausaukee as its licensed WWTP operator in charge the last time there was a vacancy. Mayou reportedly is to receive his former pay of $50 per hour for time spent on Wausaukee responsibilities.

The Board approved extra hours, as needed, for Tylor Stumbris at the WWTP until a new operator is hired. He was given Bamberg's work phone in the interim.

Discussion at the Nov. 15 regular board meeting indicated that Stumbris is taking classes to become a licensed WWTP operator, and that Radtke has authority to temporarily assign him longer hours until the board can take formal action.

Meanwhile, Trustee Mack McKim, head of the village utilities committee, said he would be at the Wastewater Treatment Plant the following morning while Bamberg collected his personal belongings as well as information he will need for a meeting with the DNR.

According to minutes of a Tuesday, Nov. 7 special meeting of the village board, the situation with Bamberg came to light on Thursday, Nov. 2, when Mayou came to the Wastewater Treatment Plant to conduct a mock lab audit. On Sunday, Nov. 5, Mayou and Radtke met with Bamberg to discuss Mayou's findings and resulting concerns.

On Monday, Nov. 6 a teleconference was held in the clerk's office between Rick Mealy of the DNR, Radtke, Bamberg and Pullen.

The summary of events says that on Nov. 2, when Mayou attempted to look over the most recent "bench sheets," on September and October tests for total suspended solids and BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) required by the DNR for the wastewater treatment plant permit, the bench sheets were not found. "There were indications that the tests were not being run, yet monthly reporting on the DMRs was recorded;" the report states.YSI Multilab was inoperable so historical calibrations could not be viewed. At this time, Mayou contacted Radtke to set up a meeting with Bamberg.

According to the officially approved minutes, on Sunday, Nov. 5, Mayou, Radtke and Bamberg met at the WWTP to discuss findings of the mock audit. Mayou asked Bamberg to produce the missing bench sheets, and Bamberg admitted that no such bench sheets exist. Mayou asked Bamberg if he had performed any analysis since Mayou relinquished overseeing the WWTP and Bamberg admitted he had not. Mayou told Radtke that he must report these findings immediately to Rick Mealy of the DNR.

On Monday, Nov. 6, Radtke, Bamberg and Pullen had a teleconference with Mealy to inform the DNR of the violations that had occurred at the WWTP lab.

The minutes state that Bamberg admitted he had not performed BOD testing per the WPDES permit "for a while," had not performed TSS testing per the WPDES permit, had falsified test results on the monthly DMR report, and did not send in the certification sample on time, thus the lab had not been certified since Sept. 1.

Mealy stated that not doing the BODs would result in a notice of non-compliance, "but falsification of documents is a much more serious offense." He said the DNR's Enforcement Committee would most likely issue an immediate notice of violation and schedule a monitoring visit to perform an investigation.

According to the minutes, "Moving forward, Mealy gave the following suggestions:

"Document all events leading to the discovery of the violation, and all events pertaining to the WWTP laboratory hereafter;

"Outsource all testing from this point forward;

"pH andDO testing can still be done in-house;

"Hold a special board meeting to address the violations and work toward a solution to correct them." Mealy added that Bamberg's honesty in coming forward will look better to the Enforcement Committee and expedite their investigation."

Finally, Mealy stated ramifications of the violations could include the WWTP lab losing all laboratory credibility and Bamberg may have his license revoked.

The Nov. 7 meeting minutes go on to say that the board reviewed the report from Mayou and listened to the recording of the teleconference. Several board members asked Bamberg why he did not do the testing as required. Bamberg said he was in over his head and was cutting corners to buy time. When asked how long this had been going on, he said for about a year. Trustee Kyle Stumbris moved to outsource all testing that requires certification from this point forward, Trustee Ray Gordon seconded and all voted in favor. Present for that meeting in addition to Bamberg, Pullen, Radtke, Stumbris and Gordon were Trustees Mack McKim, Randy Schmidt and Pat Tracy. Trustee Joleen Christ was absent and excused.

Trustee Stumbris, with a second from Gordon, moved to continue to perform all non-certified testing in-house, and that motion also passed without dissent.

The board then went into closed session "to discuss employee disciplinary actions." After reconvening in open session, Gordon, with a second from McKim, moved to terminate Bamberg's employment with the village on Dec. 31, for reasons that included falsification of documents and violating reporting requirements for the WPDES permit. A termination letter was to be delivered to Bamberg on Wednesday, Nov. 8 by McKim and Gordon, and a write-up was to be placed in his personnel file.

The board also agreed that McKim, as chair of the Water and Sewer Committee, or a member of the board in his absence, will conduct daily monitoring visits to the WWTP, Mayou is to conduct weekly monitoring visits to the WWTP, and they will advertise for a new licensed WWTP Operator at $19 per hour.

According to those minutes the board felt that terminating Bamberg's employment immediately was not an option, due to the financial burden that would put on taxpayers. That decision was changed even before the 6 p.m. Nov. 15 meeting was called to order. Bamberg's employment was terminated immediately. Board members present in addition to Radtke were trustees McKim, Gordon, Schmidt and Stumbris. Trustees Joleen Christ and Pat Tracy were absent.

In addition to the WWTP issues at the Nov. 15 meeting, the board reluctantly accepted the resignation of Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Laura Olson.

They also scheduled judging for the annual Christmas decorating contest for 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19, with prizes the same as last year, when each of three residential winners was awarded $50. Winning businesses get to keep a traveling plaque for the year. Judging will be done by Clerk/Treasurer Sara Pullen, and trustees Ray Gordon, Kyle Stumbris and McKim. Anyone wanting to have their decorations considered is asked to keep their lights on during the hours when judging is in progress.

Radtke reminded the board that the annual budget hearing would be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 21. The tax levy required is $258,916. Tax rate for the village will be $9.14 per $1,000, down from $9.18 last year.

Radtke also issued a reminder that winter parking and snow removal rules are in effect. Residents must have snow or sleet removed from all sidewalks adjacent to their premise for the full width of the walkway within 24 hours after the snow or sleet stops. Failure to do so could result in a $500 fine. He said with the recent addition of an enforcement officer and a municipal court, citations will be issued to violators. There also is an ordinance prohibiting operation or parking of any motor vehicle on any pedestrian way or pedestrian overpass within the village except for municipal or county vehicles.

Presentation of the 2018 Water and Sewer budget had been scheduled, but Pullen commented, "Here we are again to propose the budget and our lab is shut down...We have $3,500 listed for testing, and now know it's going to be at least $8,000....we are now in the red just over $3,000... last year it was $6,000, but this changes things. We might already be $8,000 to $10,000 in the red."

With the firing of Bamberg, additional funds may be needed in wages to sustain Mayou's continued employment. In addition, the WWTP lab is not certified at this time, thus, the budgeted amount for testing services may need to be increased substantially since all testing will need to be outsourced. The Board will revisit the budget and make amendments as necessary after the DNR investigation at the WWTP.

Pullen said the current $3,060 loss is "real figures," without depreciation.

Audience for the Nov. 15 meeting included Ruth Jicha and Joellen Simpson.

Radtke stated that he attended the first meeting of the Citizens Group for Industrial Development Ad Hoc Committee meeting on October 30. The group is focused on economic development, mainly industrial development, in the corridor running from Coleman to Wausaukee. He expressed how fortunate the Village is to have industries like Carfair and Décor.

Radtke informed the Board that he and Pullen met earlier that day with Derek Armstrong, Director of Human Relations for Carfair, and Karen DeLaet, Human Relations manager for the Wausaukee facility. He said Armstrong expressed the company's desire to be a big part of the community and stated he would attend the next meeting of Wausaukee Business Association on Wednesday, Dec.6, as well as the next village board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

After an explanation from Jicha, the board agreed to pay the $200 fee for membership in Connect Communities. Jicha explained the Business Association had contacted the state and has done the work and identified middle income housing as the priority need in the village. She said the Connect Communities group conducts round table discussions and provides information on access to grants and financing. Radtke felt the $200 would be well spent, and Pullen agreed, "It's a no-brainer." Both had attended meetings and received information from the Connect Communities group.

In his president's report Radtke mentioned unhappiness of some village residents over shortage of lighting on some village streets. He asked everyone to keep in mind that while streets light improvements, Christmas lights, park improvements, etc. are nice, "...everything costs money, and more money spent equates to higher taxes."

Radtke also mentioned that nomination papers for positions on the village board can be circulated starting on Friday, Dec. 1, and must be filed by Jan. 2. He encouraged village residents to get involved in their local government by running for a seat on the board, and encouraged them to come to board meetings to get correct information on what is happening in the village, and "not rely on street talk."

The board selected Saturday, July 7, 2018 as the date for next year's Independence Day celebration.

They agreed to hire Guardian Pest Solutions, Inc. for pest control maintenance with an annual contract at $45 per month for the WWTP; and"a seasonal contract, May through October, at $65 per month for the Municipal building.

At the end of the meeting the board went into closed session to discuss hiring a part-time snowplow driver and a zoning administrator/building inspector. After returning to open session they agreed to hire Duane (Scott) Collier for the part-time snowplow driver "position. Action on the zoning administrator/building inspector position was tabled, since no applications or contract offers were received.

This has been an extremely busy month for the board. At a special meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 1 they agreed to raise the sewer base and usage rate by 1 percent, effective Jan. 1.

They also approved changing the village board from seven members to five, and reduce the Plan Commission from seven memes to five. The reduction in Village Board members will be accomplished gradually, by posting two vacant positions when three terms end. Radtke said one of this year's incumbent trustees has indicated he may decide not to run.

At the end of that meeting the board went into closed session to discuss employee evaluations and hiring a permanent part-time Public Works Assistant.

After returning to open session they approved a motion to give a 75-cent per hour raise to Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Laura Olson effective Jan. 1, and do a re-evaluation on her one year anniversary date in April of 2018. However, that action became moot with her resignation submitted and approved at the Nov. 15 meeting.

Also after the Nov. 1 closed session the board approved a motion to hire a permanent part-time Public Works Assistant. They then voted to change Randy Stumbris' classification from seasonal groundskeeper to permanent part-time Public Works Assistant. He is to work up to 25 hours per week.


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